Throwback Thursday: Sundays at Playa Canteras

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

Oh wow, I had forgotten how much I’d completely fallen in love with the island of Gran Canaria.  Part of me wishes we had gotten there much sooner than we did, but our blissful days on Lanzarote were nothing to complain about either. I guess this means the two of us will have to find a year or so in our lives to fully dedicate to this set of islands.

After our arrival to Las Palmas, the capital of the island chain, we had to wait out that nasty weather which hit us just after Thanksgiving.  As soon as the sun came out on our fourth day though, we were out to hit the streets as well as the beach.  Playa Canteras, at the NE tip of the islands, is a great place for strolling, full of shops and bistros, all situated in front of the crashing waves of the beach.  While wandering our first day, we found a chain restaurant called Montanditos, which we fell head over heels for.  Tiny sandwiches served with a chilled wine drink called tinto verano.  We had a new love.

Exploring as much of this large metropolis as we could by foot, we found the opposite direction from the beach held a very nice pedestrian walkway with the chains of clothing and home good stores we could find back in the states, but their Old Town section I had been so looking forward to exploring was completely abandoned and actually kind of boring.  We didn’t  have to find streets and shops to entertain us for long though, because a few days after that we had the change to meet up with an online blogging friend of mine, Kit and her boyfriend Alex.  We picked a Friday night to hit the town, and found ourselves mostly wandering from pub to pub, ordering beer buckets as we all got to know each other and talked of our travels thus far.

So when Sunday rolled around and we knew our new favorite restaurant by the beach was having their weekly specials of sandwiches and drinks, we invited Kit and Alex to spend the day at Playa Canteras with us.

You can find the original post here.

Sunday December 7, 2014

Sand Sculptures, Playa Canteras

Since our friendship with Kit and Alex was cemented right away and all of us not only wanted, but needed some time out of the marina and off our boats to wander around today, we thought we’d bring them out to Playa Canteras.  The trip was of course, for us, an excuse to get back to Montanditos and enjoy their little sandwiches and cheap drinks, but you know, the beach has it’s draw too.

Even though the daily highs have been hovering at or just above 70 degrees, and I don’t think the water temperatures are much better, Alex decided it would be the perfect occasion to take a dip in the Atlantic.  While that crazy Brit dove in and out of waves and surfed them back to shore, us three sane people stayed in the sand and alternated between putting layers on and taking them off and the sun slid in and out of cloud coverings.

Kit did tell me that, compared to summer weather and water temperatures you’ll receive in Great Britain, this was actually quite a treat and why you’ll find so many Brits in the area walking around in thongs while the rest of us are slowly pulling on layer after layer.  I’m glad my blood has become accustomed to a Caribbean feel where anything below 80, in the water or the air, feels a bit on the nippy side now.

Kit & Matt at Playa Canteras

Alex surfing waves at Playa Canteras

Playa Canteras, Las Palmas Gran Canaria

sand sculpture at Playa Canteras

sand sculptures at Playa Canteras

After a little surf and sand, the four of us made our way down the boardwalk where we introduced them to the magic that is Montanditos.  Instead of ordering off the pre-set menu this time Matt and I went crazy and looked through their 100 sandwiches, deciphering ingredients here and there, to put together our own little mix of foods that did not disappoint.  They even have dessert ones which I made sure to try out this time.  Holy crap.  Chocolate bread with a cream and strawberry filling?  Absolutely to die for.  As was the cream cheese, basil, prosciutto, and tomato slider.  Gahhhh…we need to open one of these in the States!!

view in front of 100 Montanditos

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Matt & Alex at Playa Canteras

More random roaming followed our late lunch, and after getting lost on the streets of Las Palmas we eventually found our way back to the marina and to an open table at Sailor’s Bar.  Enjoying a couple of cañas we all dreamed of the Caribbean with it’s warm sunny skies and clear temperate waters.  Anchorages as far as the eye can see and afternoons filled with snorkeling and sunsets in the cockpit.  While we have absolutely loved being in Europe with all of it’s cities and conveniences, we are definitely ready to get back to some tropical island living.

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Throwback Thursday: The ARC is Gone, Time to Invade Las Palmas

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

It was a shame that as soon as the sun came out to show us exactly what a nice place Marina Rubicon could be, it was time for us to check out and move on.  We would have loved to spend a few more days at our favorite spot in Playa Papagayo, but the weather had not settled down enough from the storm passing through to give us a comfortable spot there.

Moving over to the south side of the island, we found a little known anchorage tucked next to a small resort and a few restaurants.  Here we sat and waited out rain for a few days, while venturing to shore just once, only to find the nearest internet was three miles away.  Not what we wanted to hear while trying to forecast weather for our upcoming 100 mile journey to Gran Canaria.  Through texting with my dad on our satellite phone, we were given the go ahead for good weather to get us to our last destination in the Canary Islands.

You can find the original post here.

 

Friday November 28, 2014

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We made it to Gran Canaria. It’s crazy to think this will be our last stop before our Atlantic crossing. I still have mixed emotions about going back across since it seems like we just got to this side of the ocean. Part of me wants us to get delayed to no end so that I can enjoy land based time for as long as possible. The other part of me wants to get it over with as soon as possible, not only putting our long crossings behind us, but also getting to spend more time in the Caribbean with friends and tropical climates before throwing ourselves into major boat overhaul mode for the rest of 2015.

When we left Playa Quemachia on Tuesday I was still a little apprehensive of the 25 kt winds and 3 meter seas as the last time we had those conditions was going from Sao Miguel to Maderia, a passage I’d still like to block from my mind for so many reasons. But as we raised the main and glided out from the anchorage and into deep waters it was actually a pleasant sail. The wind was coming on our back quarter and the waves were gently lifting us up and pushing us forward. I laughed to myself and though, if this is what our crossing back to the Caribbean is going to be like then sign me up, I can totally handle this!

As usual Matt was down in bed basically as soon as the sails were raised and we were on course, preparing himself to stay up late for the first night shift. I spent the afternoon alone in the cockpit, snacking on Maria cookies and watching the volcanic peaks of Fuerteventura disappear into the horizon. All of the shifts passed incredibly quickly, neither of us had any issue falling asleep right when we were supposed to, and before we knew it we could see the lights of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in the dark. Not even one of those situations where you can see a glow in the dark, but we could actually make out lights even when we were 30 miles offshore. The sail had actually gone so well that we had to slow ourselves down in order not to arrive in the dark.

Based on the insane number of ships showing on our AIS we did not want to get anywhere near shore without full daylight on our side. Matt even had to wake me up early to try and figure out all the lights in the water that were surrounding us in the dark. Trying to figure out what tankers were anchored outside the harbor and what ones were still moving, if the tri color light in the distance belonged to a sailboat, and if so how far it was from us, and if that ferry running up directly behind us knew we were there. The only way to describe this harbor is controlled chaos. I don’t think we’ve ever been to such a busy port. It seemed like all the vessels knew what they were doing for the most part, but the number of them was completely astounding.

When the sky eventually grew light and we could make sense of everything we were seeing, it was a mad rush to the harbor to beat out all the other sailboats that had obviously been waiting on the same weather window we had to make the crossing here. Assuming that the marina would have limited space even now that the ARC had left, we did not want to get turned away and literally have to travel all the way to the other side of the island to find another marina. Punching down the throttle we literally raced in another boat that was trying to pass us and caught the right side to be on of a departing tanker, while the other boat had to slow down and wait for it to pass.

Alligning ourselves with the hundred masts in front of us we pulled up to the marina and saw the numerous boats anchored out front. Confused on why they were all out there, we thought that the only available anchoring here was directly in front of a set of breakers and that these boats must be out here because the marina was overfilled and there was no other place for them to go. We figured that as long as there were numerous boats at anchor versus the marina, we would join them until a staff member came out to let us know we couldn’t be there. May as well steal a few days at anchor if possible.

Somehow even though this was an incredibly short passage, both of us were completely drained of energy for the rest of the day. We slept away most of it and barley woke up in time to make dinner before going right back to bed for the night. Yesterday we did get off the boat long enough to wander a few blocks and find a grocery store to stock us up for the weekend. We also tried to make a stop in the marina office to check ourselves in, but after taking a number and sitting in a set of plastic chairs for 45 minutes while not a single new person was called up to the desk and we were fifth in line, we decided to put it off for another day. Completely forgetting that it was Thanksgiving back home we did nothing special and enjoyed our normal nightly routine of a movie from our hard drive while eating dinner.

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Today we had wanted to get off the ‘Dip and do a bit more exploring except a terrible front was moving through the area and making conditions unbearable. During the afternoon it was just cloudy skies and winds around 30 knots, nothing to cause worry but enough to keep us on the boat. Through the evening and into the night though, things only got worse. Much, much worse. Even though we were inside a very protected harbor, the winds blowing through were so intense that I shudder to think of what conditions offshore were.

While I tried to settle into the settee with a bowl of popcorn and a chick flick on my Android. Even with earbuds nestled tightly in my ear I had to pause the movie a few times to check the howling winds outside since they were becoming deafening. Turning on the instruments we watched the wind gust up into the 40s….and then stay there. Through the next few hours it kept raising and raising until we were getting sustained winds in the 50s. At that point panic started to set in as we just waited for our anchor to drag or for one of the boats ahead to drag back into us. The winds were so powerful that if our bow even started to fall a few degrees off of direct wind, it would catch our hull and start to push us beam in. Back and forth we twisted from one direction to the other, all the time thinking of the strain on our anchor and chain.

There was one boat next to us that dragged further and further out of the anchorage and into the shipping channel, but unlike the storm we experienced in Play Francesca, it would be suicide to send Matt out in the dinghy to alert or try to help them. Luckily they became aware of this problem very quickly and began to move themselves back into the anchorage. For a period though they were fighting winds so strong that even though I’m sure they were motoring at full power, they weren’t even able to move forward, only keep themselves from getting pushed backward.

Chatting online with my blog friend Kit that’s in Tenerife and experiencing even stronger winds according to Passage Weather, she relayed that what they were receiving was sustained winds and gusts into the upper 60s. Jealous of the fact that they were in a marina instead of at anchor like we were, I quickly was comforted with our location as she told me that on the way to the showers, sheet metal was peeling off buildings and flying into the anchorage. Her and a visiting friend had to literally drop to the ground to keep from being hit by one. Not anything I would like to experience.

Both Matt and I were kept up by this storm until 4 am when we were no longer able to keep our eyes open and the winds were just beginning to subside. So…suddenly that Atlantic crossing isn’t sounding so appealing anymore. I think a plane ticket and hired crew to sail Serendipity to the Caribbean sounds much better. Now if only I could find a trustworthy crew to do this for free…..

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Throwback Thursday: Isla Los Lobos, Fuerteventura

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

After our mostly uneventful week in Puerto Rosario, we were ready to get out of the industrial harbor and find a peaceful and picturesque anchorage once more.  Even though both of us were itching to get back to our previous spot by Playa Papagayo, I wanted to make another stop along the way.

Sitting just between the main islands of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote are a little group of islands called Los Lobos, and they were touted to be a gorgeous spot to anchor, if you could handle the swell that sometimes passed through. Ready to take in one new anchorage before we eventually made our way to Gran Canaria to prep for our Atlantic crossing, we spent two beautiful nights in this relatively undiscovered anchorage.

You can find the original post here.

Saturday November 15, 2014

Isla Los Lobos, Fuerteventura

It was nice to have the conveniences of Puerto Rosario, but we were more than ready to get out of the industrial port and trade it for something a little nicer on the eyes. Our next destination was Isla Los Lobos at the northern tip of Fuerteventura. It was a placed we had originally passed on our way down and tossed back and forth in our minds if we should stay there. Our 20 year old guide book listed it as a nice day anchorage, but with too much swell running between the island and the mainland, not a place you’d like to stay overnight. But with the idyllic posters the guy at the information center showed me, accounts of a friend that had just been there, and the fact that we saw about a dozen masts there when we passed it the first time, we knew we couldn’t give it up.

Waiting for winds that would allow us north again, we figured a clam would be the next best thing and turned on our engine at the early hour of 5:30 to give ourselves plenty of time for the 20 some mile hop. We had currents pushing us all the way down Lanzarote and feared they may work against us on our way back up the island. No need to fear though as we traveled at a swift five and a half knots at 2,000 rpm and made it in just over three hours. I guess my math was wrong as well and the trip was only 15 miles. Oops! sunrise over Fuerteventura

sunrise over Fuerteventura, Canary Islands Coming in we had to be very careful of reefs and shallows on each side of us, breaking waves showing the danger we could be in if we drifted too far off course. All the guide books had listed this area as extremely popular for all kinds of extreme water sports and we were starting to see why. High winds wrapping around, strong currents, breaking waves. No wonder a world famous kite boarding championship had just been held in this stretch the previous week. Inching our way into the anchorage we dropped near the back in 40 feet of crystal clear water and took the rest of the day to relax, nap, and watch the charter/party catamarans that would bring tourists over from the mainland for a few hours to swim, drink, and play incredibly loud music. At least it was good though, none of that 80′s stuff that we can’t seem to outrun here.

Isla Los Lobos, Fuerteventura

Our second day I was ready to get out and do something. There’s been lots of lying around beaches or touring city streets in our docket lately, but not much exploring. I had been very excited to get on to the island itself to see what it had to offer. After drifting precariously close over reefs and darting in and out of what we thought were coves in the dinghy, we finally found a spot to land and found out that all the island of Los Lobos had to offer were rocks. Lots and lots of rocks. Not even the pretty kind either. As we walked down the dirt paths it felt as if we had been deposited in a landfill of rubble.

bay at Isla Los Lobos, Fuerteventura

trails at Isla Los Lobos

Back at the boat we took in a quick lunch and were right back in the dink for some snorkeling. During our hunt for an entrance to the bay at Los Lobos we had gone over tons of coral as well as seen multiple dive boats anchored outside of the area. A pretty good indication that there must be something of worth in the water. Donning our wet suits and masks we slipped below the surface of the water and into quite a shock at it’s temperature. A chilly 72°! I remember the days when I wouldn’t even get into Lake Michigan until it was pushing 75°. Sucking it up, I skimmed along under the water and just gave myself more motivation to cross the Atlantic once more and get back to those balmy 82° seas of the Caribbean.

Although there was no color to the coral surrounding us, there were definitely fish abound. On one of Matt first dives down to check out a rock he even found an octopus hanging out under there, something that’s been on his bucket list of things to see in the water. By the time I went down to catch a glimpse of it as well it had already hidden itself out of sight. Instead of searching for it even further as Matt was, taking dive after dive under the water and holding on to the rocks to keep him submerged while he looked in every nook and crevice, I was happy to float at the top and watch the parrot fish which swam below me.

For water that was so cool we stayed in a lot longer than I expected for only having ¾ suits, about 45 minutes in total. We also found the local drinking hole, hundreds of glass beer and wine bottles nestled into the sand just below a set of flat rocks that hung out at the surface. I’m pretty sure Matt could have gone a few more rounds through the bay, but he must have noticed that I was beginning to shiver and keeping my arms wrapped around myself the whole time, so he led us back to the dinghy where I took in a fresh water rinse and some sunbathing up on deck to warm myself back up.

anchorage at Los Lobos

beach at Los Lobos, Fuerteventura

In the evening just before sunset I ushered us both out into the cockpit where I had a nice little spread set up for us that I had been waiting for the perfect surroundings to appriciate. Having made up some bruschetta and toasted french bread earlier in the day, I went to pair it with the bottle of Maderian wine we bought in, where else, Maderia. Opening the top with it’s thick resealable cork, I poured us each a full glass and we went to toast in the glow of the setting sun. Then taking big sips of our revered wine, we simultaniously went back and forth between spitting it out and gulping down what was left while our throats burned like fire. No one had told us that Madeiran wine was actually more like a port. Thick and strong with a heavy liquor taste. We had both been prepared to enjoy it as if it were a chilled Rosé.

Matt poured his glass over the side of the boat while I continued on with mine, taking very light sips as if I were drinking straight rum. It wasn’t bad once you knew what you were in for, but I’m beginning to think this one bottle could very well last six months. Not to bad considering we paid about 6€ for it. Other than the initial surprise and fire in our throats, the evening was soon remedied when Matt had a Pepsi in his hand and I was chasing my wine with water. Good thing we never had the chance to bring that bottle to one of the parks in Maderia to drink like we had originally planned. I think we would have put on quite the show for any unsuspecting tourist that might have had their blanket spread next to ours.

sunset over Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

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Throwback Thursday: One Week in Puerto Rosario, Fuerteventura

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

I know it has been a long time since our last Throwback Thursday has gone up, but the funny thing is, chronologically, this happens to be the next post in line after our R&R on Playa Papagayo.  After having enjoyed just a little over a week in the Canary Islands after having arrived from Madeira, we knew it was time to move on, try to find officials, and properly check into the country.  Something we heard they were relaxed about here, and honestly the only reason we found to make our way to Fuerteventura.

It was a nice week there where we stumbled upon tapas restaurants, a shopping mall where the reminders of my old life and Christmas shopping sent chills down my spine (they were already gearing up for it here), and stocked up our boat on cheap and delicious produce from Hiper Dino.

You can find the original post here.

Wednesday November 12, 2014

Tapas in Fuerteventura

For a town that we only stopped in to check into the country, we spent way too much time in it.  Being an industrial town that drops off loads of cruise ship passengers each week yet we have no idea what they do because we spent  8 days and couldn’t find anything to do other than wander the mall, we really spent to much time here.  But so it goes.

When Matt asked what our next destination was after Playa Papagayo, I looked at my trusty map drawn up by Island Drifter and saw that on the neighboring island of Fuerteventura there were two ports of entry and only one of them was suitable to anchor in.  No more marinas here for quite awhile, thank you.  It was a windless day as we sailed down, until we were only a few miles from the port and the clouds rolled in and winds kicked up.  We were both thankful to find a calm spot to drop anchor and just prayed that winds would not shift to the east during our stay there.

Getting off the boat and going in search of the port official and then the Policia Nacional, I found that it is indeed impossible to check in to the Canary Islands.  Just don’t even bother until you get to Gran Canaria, its not worth the trouble because no one will have any idea what you’re talking about.  But the good thing about the whole debacle is that I spent about an hour in the tourist information station talking to an extremely helpful man named Jose who gave me all the ins and outs of Fuerteventura.  And suddenly it became clear of why a cruise ship comes here.  This is the only port that can handle a ship of that size, and everyone is immediately shipped off to other parts of the island where there were more interesting things to do.

I loaded myself up on brochures and bus schedules and planned our week here although Matt was planning to get out, with the boat, asap.  The other good thing about stopping in the information booth is that Jose gave me the low-down on his favorite local restaurant, a place that served tapas for only 1€ on Mon-Fri.

As it turned out, every day we were there we thought we’d be leaving the next day so we never took one of the tours by bus although there were plenty of things we would have liked to see.  Instead we toured the town which had some parts that were actually pretty nice, and wandered the giant mall where it felt to strange to see Christmas decorations already going up.  We did manage to find the tapas restaurant, El Expresso, and twice in the week sampled random items off the menu and enjoyed beers, usually ending with only a 10€ tab including the tip.

In the afternoons, if the sky wasn’t completely overcast, we sat in the cockpit and watched all the local children partake in the town’s yacht club where they’d learn different water activities.  In droves we’d see them launch themselves out into the water in kayaks, sailing dinghies, and windsurfing boards.  Sipping on wine and nibbling on bruschetta we’d look on as they’d skim by our boat, laughing and yelling in Spanish.  It was really great not only seeing an opportunity like this offered to the local children, but to see how many were taking advantage of it.

The week we ended up staying in Puerto Rosario was still lazy and relaxing, but in a completely different way than we had been enjoying in the Papagayo Peninsula.  Here our days consisted of taking advantage of the incredibly cheap groceries at the local Hiper Dino, about 60% of the price of the same chain in Playa Blanca, and sitting at the local cafes to enjoy some tapas or coffee & milk while playing around on our computers.  I am sad that we didn’t get to explore more of the island, maybe check out the northern coast where they filmed the movie Exodus last year, but I know there’s still plenty more sights in store for us in our time in the Canaires.

Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

coast of Fuerteventura

Puerto Rosario port, Fuerteventura

Spanish tapas

water sports in Fuerteventura

Matt

Fuerteventura

 

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Throwback Thursday: R&R in Playa Papagayo

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

Even though we were really enjoying our time in Playa Francesca as well as it’s seclusion, we knew there were a lot more islands in the Canary Island chain to explore.  Making a quick 35 mile run, we ended up in the SE corner of Lanzarote in a little area called Playa Papagayo.  Due to the minimal amount of anchorages here, we were happy to have stumbled upon another one through some research, and although the day was becoming blustery and stormy as we dropped anchor, it looked like a nice spot to spend a few days.

Once we arrived though, our mornings and days became lazy again as we were in no rush to get anywhere.  Realizing we still had nearly a month before we planned to arrive in Gran Canaria, we realized how quickly we could cover ground when we wanted.  We did experience one morning with strong winds and a sandstorm rolling through our anchorage, but since we were not on a lee shore it still gave us no reason to move.

We liked this spot we chose.  It was fairly private with only 4-5 other boats in the anchorage with us, and had lots of sandy beached for us to relax on during the day.  A decent sized town with a supermarket was only a mile dinghy ride away, and we were always treated with amazing sunsets and even views of the neighboring island of Fuerteventura.

Aside from the dry desert hills that were rolling around us, it was sometimes hard to remember that we weren’t back in the Caribbean.  A perfect little spot to get in some R&R before moving back to big towns and civilization when we eventually did get to Gran Canaria again.

You can find the original post here.

Tuesday November 4, 2014

Papagayo Peninsula, Lanzarote

As if spending three days fully relaxing at Playa Francecsa after we’d just made our way over from Madeira wasn’t enough, we’ve been doing nothing more but the same ever since we arrived here in Playa Papagayo.  Unless you count forcing yourself off the boat to lounge in sandy coves with sparkling seas in front of you hard work.  Oh, and there was that one trip into Playa Blanca for exploring, a lunch out, and internet.

Our first full day in the Peninsula it was a little overcast, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to get out to do a little exploring.  Not that there seemed to be much more than just sand and a few rocks to the untrained eye, but according to the Canaries guidebook that our dear friends on Skebenga bequeathed us, there was a very popular and eye catching cove at the southern end of the point.  It seemed as if everyone visiting this island had the same guidebook I did since even though it was a bit out of the way, the beach was crowded and the one restaurant overlooking had every table full.

The cove itself was beautiful with emerald green waters dotted with rocks and coral, sporting the random head and bum of someone snorkeling through it.  The somewhat hazy sky did dampen my perfect shots a little though, and after making Matt stand on a rock at the top for 25 minutes waiting for the sun to come back out so I could get that perfect guidebook worth shot of the cove, I relented and we walked back to the dinghy and scouted a place to head back the next day with beach supplies in tow.

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Getting fully back into beach mode we spent the next few days tucked into one of three coves along the coast.  Although they seem inacessable, we’d still find small crowds of Brits and Spaniards that would either take the death defying (ok, not really) hike down from the top of the cliffs, or wait for low tide and stroll over the exposed and flattened rocks.  It was still more secluded and much cooler looking than the main beach though, so every day we’d load up the dinghy with our sport-a-seats and a cooler full of beer and snacks, and land ourselves there for a few hours of lounging.

Even though I should be promoting good skin care and staying out of the sun as much as possible, I completely spent a few days drinking in as much as possible.  There are few things I love more than the feel of a warm sun on bare skin, and seeing as how we hadn’t had a beach in front of us in months and being covered in clouds for the latter part of our time in Portugal, I figured I could sacrifice a few days.  Slathered in SPF 30 from head to toe.

After the third day of doing nothing but soaking up sun and Portuguese beers, we decided to do a little wandering to the main beach to see what we could find.  Turns out, it was all people fully eligible for retirement that could not be coaxed into wearing a stitch of clothing.  Masses of them engulfed the sands as they could not be persuaded to sit still; strolling, swimming, and bending over all over the place.  It was kind of cute, really.  The way they ran into the water with all the enthusiasm of a four year old child who was just told they were allowed to have cupcakes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.   These silverhairs were camped on the beach with cups full of beer, a sun high in the sky, and good friends surrounding.  It was kind of like watching MTV Beach House: The Golden Years.

At the far end of the beach, after we’d passed the gauntlet of saggy skinemax, we were rewarded with a relatively easy climb to the tops of one of the cliffs which afforded rapturous views of the anchorage and beach below.  The wind up there was something else though, and Matt was literally worried that I’d blow away.  Trust me, it’s one place you do not want to take a spill.

I wish I could have included more photos of this area as it was so stunning, but it was also really hard to get any shots without  any T&W (ta-ta’s and wang).  So just take my word when I tell you it’s a place not to miss on your trip through the Canaries.  Unless you can’t handle ta-ta’s and wang.

Papagaya Peninsula, Lanzarote

Sagres beer & beach

Papagayo Peninsula, Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Matt & Jessica on Lanzarote

 When we finally dragged ourselves back to the ‘Dip in the late afternoon we wallowed in lazy time including naps, matinees, and many snacks.  When the sun started to go down we’d take our seats in the cockpit to watch the show, all the while helping to empty the 5L box of white wine we purchased in Portugal.

I know, cry for us all you want, we lead such a ‘tough’ life, but I think our time here is exactly what we needed.  A return to our type of cruising filled with swaying on the hook, days full of sun & sand, and nights full of starry skies.

sunset over Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

georgie

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Throwback Thursday: Playa Francesca, Isla Graciosa

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

While we absolutely loved our time in Maderia, mostly just wandering the streets of Funchal, we knew we eventually needed to make our way south to the Canary Islands where we would prepare to once again cross the Atlantic to the Caribbean. As much as I could have wandered the back alleys of Funchal, gazing upon their elaborately decorated doors, or any other of their quaintly European sights, we were also eager to get back to a spot at anchor and where cruise ship passengers weren’t passing by our cockpit and trying to stare at us through our companionway each evening.

It would take us approximately three days to sail from Madeira to the nearest Canary Island, Isla Graciosa, and after a few days of nasty weather and swells that were threatening the marina we were stationed at, there was finally a break in the strong wind and waves to get moving again. Having a calm and pleasurable passage, we made our way from the outlying Portuguese Islands to a new set of Spanish ones.  Three days later with our hook sunk into the sand for it’s first time in three months, we were in love with being on the hook again.

A small and mostly uninhabited island, it was quite a change from the metropolis we’d just come from, but a few days of peace and quiet with sandy beaches and beautiful waters were just what the doctor ordered.

You can find the original post here.

Monday October 27, 2014

Playa Francesca, Isla Graciosa, Canaries

I am in love with being at anchor again, what a wonderful feeling. This has sorely been missing from our lives for the past few months. Although we were happy to have our dose of civilization and conveniences, there’s still nothing that beats a few days of seclusion with beautiful surroundings.

There wasn’t much that we did after arriving on Saturday, even though we came in first thing in the morning. Any time after an overnight passage it usually takes us a little time to recover from the loss of sleep, and honestly, we weren’t ready to get out of the lazy habit of doing nothing all day just like we had while sailing. Even dinner was just a pizza heated up in the oven as I couldn’t motivate myself to do much more than that.

Yesterday was a bit more of a productive day and it started in the middle of the night when the winds picked up and shifted to the south where we were fully exposed. We had heard that southerlies were a big thing to watch out for in the Canaries as a lot of anchorages are exposed in that light, as well as the southerlies being quite powerful. Since our Weather Fax hasn’t been picking up a great signal this side of the pond we had even hailed a cruise ship a day outside of Lanzarote to get a forecast and specifically asked if any winds from the south were coming up in the next few days, in which we were told no. Come 2 am though and our whole anchorage was full of boats bouncing all over the place. Matt even took it upon himself at 3 am to jump in the dinghy and shuttle out to a neighboring boat that had dragged out toward the channel to make them aware of the situation and see if they needed help. I think they had just woken when he got there and thanked him for coming over, but since their anchor seemed to have caught again they didn’t want to go through the hassle of re-anchoring in the middle of the night.

The winds did not die down through the night and when the sun rose at 7am you could see cockpits full of people monitoring the conditions and making sure they were not moving anywhere themselves. I brewed a few cups of coffee for the two of us, and poor Matt who’d barley gotten any sleep through the night was sent down to get some rest, although it didn’t take and he was quickly back in the cockpit with me. In the late morning and early afternoon the winds began to shift a bit more to the east and calmed down just a little bit which allowed everyone to relax and resume normal cruising life. For us this meant getting our suits on and heading over to the beach for a day of sun and relaxing.

We’d heard through the grapevine that Spain has some nude and topless beaches, but we assumed they were in designated areas, and nothing prepared us for when we landed our dinghy on the picturesque beach here in Playa Francesa to find a couple laying out on the sand completely nude. They probably couldn’t have been more than 20 feet from us and it was one of those situations where you do everything to advert your eyes from that direction because you don’t know the protocol, and even glancing down the beach to take in the surrounding sights seems like peeping. We made sure to set up our sport-a-seats well down the beach as not to run into this issue all afternoon.

The next few hours on the beach were great and it felt so nice to get back into these elements after being forced into marinas for the past three months where there were no suitable sandy beaches nearby. Sandwiches were enjoyed, cold beers were sipped, and we slowly went back from pasty white to something resembling a little color (after slathering ourselves in SPF 30, of course). We did just a little bit of wandering around the beach, climbed the hill for some magnificent views, and waded in the water to find out it was much cooler than one would expect for such a lower lattitude. Matt had wanted to come back out later with our snorkel gear to check out some of the small reefs in here, but I’m not even sure I could spend 10 minutes in that water. Wow, I must be becoming very babied with the tropical waters I’ve become accustomed to over the past few years if I can’t spend much time in waters comparable to those I grew up with in Lake Michigan.

We did have a nice surprise waiting for us in the afternoon too. I should say, the surprise came earlier in the day, we just weren’t able to enjoy it until later. Just after we had showered in the morning and were getting ready to head out to the beach we saw a dinghy that was going from boat to boat and eventually made it’s way toward us. It ended up being a father and son from the boat Matt had visited in the middle of the night, and they were going around the anchorage trying to find out who had come out to them to let them know they had dragged out into the channel. When the man first pulled up he asked Matt, “We’re you the one that was on my boat last night?”. Matt, thinking this man was assuming someone had unlawfully boarded their boat in the middle of the night and this might lead to a big argument replied, “No, no, I wasn’t on your boat, but I did come up to it to see if you were ok”. Well it turns out this guy wasn’t looking to pick a fight at all, he just wanted to find and thank the person that had come out to check on them.

Even better, once he found this person he wanted to thank them with a bottle of champagne. Ummm, what? Champagne? Matt kept trying to turn him down saying that he was happy to have helped in any way he could, but the champagne was absolutely unnecessary. Which it was. But then again….free champagne. Luckily this guy would not take no for an answer. After thanking us a few more times in broken English (having a native tongue of French), him and his son were off again and we had a nice drink to chill and enjoy that evening. And boy did we.

Where we’re anchored in Playa Francesca there are stunning views of the cliffs of Lanzarote across the El Stretcho. With a bit more of luck on our side we had the sun setting behind us and lighting up these cliffs with orange and red hues as if they were on fire. Opening the champagne to enjoy with these fine views we soon realized we had no way to close the bottle back up and it would all have to be drank in one sitting. And since Matt isn’t very into champagne unless it’s incredibly sweet, a good portion of that job fell onto me. Not that you’d find me complaining, but it did make it a little harder to become productive once the bottle ran dry. My intended dinner of a KFC chicken bowl quickly turned into a pre-cooked pizza in the oven. Oh well. C’est la vie. When life gives you champagne, you drink that sh*t.

Matt at bow

Matt at beach

Playa Francesca, Isla Graciosa, Canary Islands

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champagne dinner

sunset over Lanzarote

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Throwback Thursday: Hiking Pico Ruivo and Settling for Sao Vicente

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

Even though both of us were ennamored with our time in Madeira, I never seemed to pull out my camera much for my time there.  Maybe it was a good thing though, as I was just enjoying being there instead of being there as a tourist with the need to capture every outing.

There were times I did make missions to go out with camera in hand though, like when I hiked to the top of a tall hill in town to catch the sunset, or the one time we met some young people to hang out with from the marina. (Spoiler alert: Norwegians can drink a lot).  We also took a trip out to the local market one morning  as it was touted as a ‘must experience’ through Trip Advisor reviews there, but we were sorely disappointed with what we got.

One morning we decided to see further than what the main city of Funchal had to offer.  Hoping on a local bus, we rode around to the opposite side of the island to check out a hiking trail up a volcano that our new Norwegian friends told us about.  Once arriving though, we found out that our friends are much more adventurous than us, and I should have listened to the woman at the information station about the weather.

You can find the original post here.

Thursday October 16, 2014

São Vicente, Madeira

I don’t have to tell you how in love we are with this island.  I’ve pretty much been talking about it non stop lately.  The only problem is, I can’t quite say we love this island just yet, because we’ve only seen Funchal.  I’m sure I could fall deeply in love with the rest of it, I just needed a chance to see it.

So with great public transportation and nothing but time on our hands as we wait for a decent window to the Canaries, I kept bugging Matt that we needed to do an inland tour.  See more than just this one town.  So that years down the road when we finally give up our life at sea and get our land legs back I can say with authority, ‘We should move to Madeira.  We loved that entire island.’

I had spent hours online researching the best places of the island to visit, but with only a bus at our fingertips instead of a car it wouldn’t be as easy to see multiple parts and we’d have to stick to one area.  Looking at photo after photo and spending one whole evening on a certain flickr account, I decided that São Vicente on the north side of the island was the place for us.  It looked as if it had a gorgeous beach with high rising cliffs on each side, a quaint little town for wandering, and caves to explore should the mood hit.  I was all set to buy our bus tickets out.

That was, until we ran into the Norwegian guys the morning of their departure.  We had noticed that they’d been gone the entire previous day and found out they went on an amazing hike through the center of the island from Pico Ruivo to Pico Areeiro.  They described it as very long at 15 km total, difficult at times as most of it was uphill, but by far one of the best hikes they’ve ever taken in their life.  ”It challenges hiking through the fjords of Norway”, they told me.  It did sound incredibly long and tedious, but how could you pass up something right in front of you that challenges the views of Norway?  That night I researched Pico Areeiro and decided that São Vicente would have to wait. We were going to hike a mountain.

Stopping at the information center in Funchal I picked up a few maps as the woman behind the counter stared at me with leery eyes as I told her my plans.  ”It’s a very long walk”, she told me.  ”Yes”, I replied, “I’m fully aware.  It will be about six hours”.  ”Tomorrow is supposed to be very bad weather”, she confronted.  I paid her no mind.  For some reason the woman of Portugal don’t seem to like me and are always telling me I can’t or shouldn’t do things that I later find are incredibly easy.  Like lugging our propane containers a mile outside town to have them filled instead of getting a taxi.

So as we woke this morning I prepared us the best I could, dressing us in layers for the elevation and even putting in a windbreaker since I remembered the fresh breeze at the top of Faial, although Matt declined his.  Hopping on the bus we rode through extremely beautiful seaside and mountain roads until we began climbing to the interior town of Encumeada where we would then follow the 11 km path to Pico Ruivo and from there continue on about another 5 km to Pico Areeiro.  Encumeada would start us at an elevation of 1007 m , the climb up to Pico Ruivo would bring us up to 1862 m, and we’d descend to Pico Areeiro just a little bit at 1816 m, although this was supposed to be the more difficult part of the hike, winding through extremely narrow paths and through caves in the mountains.

As the bus chugged and climbed it’s way up the mountain we watched the sun disappear and a thick fog settled in.  The winds were picking up as well and just as we started to laugh and point out how quickly they were rushing through this area, whipping around peaks and pushing bushes on their side, the bus driver stopped and motioned for us to get off.  Oh crap.  This did not look so fun anymore.  Stepping off the bus into 40 knot winds and a 20 degree temperature drop, we began to second guess ourselves as the bus sped away down the mountain toward São Vicente.

Pico Ruivo

Encumeada, Madeira

Bundling ourselves up in every layer of clothing we had on us, we found the beginning of the trail while at the same time muttering to ourselves ‘How the hell are we going to do this?’.  At this point we were pretty sure that the two of us together would not be coming back down alive.  Pushing our way up a dirt trodden path we found a bit of sanctuary behind the giant ridges in front of us, the wind luckily coming from the opposite side.  The side we were on still held it’s challenges though in the form of never ending steps.  This was not looking like it was going to be a gradual path up those 850 m.  Climbing and huffing and puffing we tried to gauge how much initial elevation we were making, hoping that it was all at the beginning and the rest would level out.  That we might be able to handle.  But if it was going to be 11 km of climbing stairs, that was a guarantee that neither of us would be making it back down.

On the bright side, during many of our breaks to stop and catch our breath we had amazing views down the cliffs to the north side of the island where São Vicente was nestled at the bottom.  The clouds on that side of us cleared just enough for us to see out to the valley below, but whenever we turned to look where we were headed next it was nothing but white.  We began to wonder if the hike would be worth it at all, coming mostly for the views and realizing there was a chance we wouldn’t even be able to make them out through the fog.

overlooking Sao Vicente, Madeira

hiking Pico Ruivo, Madeira

Matt hiking Pico Ruivo

On and on we continued to huff and puff as we climbed higher and higher.  The rocky stones in the dirt path would sometimes give way to grand staircases, but the theme always seemed to be onward and upward.  For a few moments we had forgotten about the wind since there had been no exposure to it since the beginning of the hike.  While rising up one of these grand stair cases we found another couple close to our age coming back down.  They stopped to chat for a moment, both of us asking where the other was heading.  It turns out they were trying to do the same hike as us, or at least just get to the top of Pico Ruivo, but about a quarter mile up ahead they found themselves exposed to the wind again and decided to turn around.

As the guy tried to explain, we think they were French and English was a second language, they were by no means professionals and they felt that to continue would be too dangerous and they were better off coming back down and completing their tour of the island from the safety of their rental car.  We don’t consider ourselves professionals either, but can sometimes muster ourselves up to be hardcore for just a little bit, and decided to continue on.  At least to the point they were referring to and could decide there if we wanted to move forward or turn around.  Progressing up the mountain another ten minutes we came up to a clearing that had no protection from the strong winds we initially experienced and suddenly saw exactly what they were talking about.

The winds here hit us like a freight train, suddenly gusting up from a light breeze to somewhere near 60 knots.  Not only that, but we were in complete cloud cover and could not see more than 100 feet in front of us.  No wonder this other couple turned around.  To venture on looked like suicide.  We quickly agreed that to continue on would be completely unwise and possibly even dangerous and we also turned ourselves around, even rushing back down the areas we could, trying to catch this couple to see if maybe they would give us a ride back into town instead of waiting for the bus to swing around again that afternoon.

stairs hiking Pico Ruivo

hiking Pico Ruivo

Jessica on stairs of Pico Ruivo hike, Madeira

Back at the bottom of the hill the French couple was long gone and the next bus through this area was still hours away from arriving.  Scouting the small diner and gift shop that made up this town we looked for vehicles of only two people that might be able to give us a ride back to Funchal or at least down the mountain to São Vicente, but every car or van we came across was packed full.  Giving up we decided to walk the 10 km ourselves since we figured we had planned on getting a hike in that day anyway and at least this was downhill.

This notion only lasted about half the way down until it felt like we were never going to reach our destination.  Every time we’d round a corner and look down the valley we’d think, ‘Ok, only about two more turns and we should be there’, except every turn led to at least five more.  Finally at one lookout point we broke down and asked a couple that had stopped to enjoy the views if they could give us a lift the remaining few miles.  They kindly obliged and our weary legs finally had a rest.

outskirts of Sao Vicente

church at São Vicente, Madeira

 When we got down to São Vicente we realized the town itself didn’t have a whole lot going for it.  Not that it was a bad place, it was just much smaller than we were expecting.  There were a few shops, lots of restaurants, but that was about it.  Coming from the metropolis of Funchal though, I can see how anything could look kind of small.

What the town lacked though, the seaside definitely made up for.  There were gorgeous black sand beaches with tremendous waves constantly crashing on them.  A true surfers paradise.  With an hour to kill before the next bus would come around to bring us home, we just sat on the seawall and took in the views of the staggering cliffs that sat on the ocean while thundering waves crashed at their feet.

In the end, I guess the day worked out kind of perfectly.  I doubt we would have had the strength to hike the entire way to Pico Areelio even on a clear and calm day, but there also wasn’t enough in São Vicente to entertain us for an entire day.  So breaking it up between the two gave us a taste of both worlds.  It also gave us a chance to see more than just one spot on the island and let me say for sure that Yes, I could absolutely see myself living here someday.

São Vicente, Madeira

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Jessica in São Vicente, Madeira

 

Here’s a quick little clip of some of our sights for the day.

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Throwback Thursday: La Bella Isla Madeira

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

Finally getting our weather window out of Ponta Delgada, we jumped on the first chance we could get to move ourselves to the Madeira Island group about 560 miles away.  Although we were lucky not to have any tropical storms bearing down on us, we suffered from less than favorable winds the entire time.

Doubling our expected time at sea, it may have technically been under the 28 days it took us to get from Bermuda to Horta, but it still goes down in our books as the longest passage ever. Thankfully we were rewarded with the best landfall we’ve ever made, and still our favorite stop on our travels.

You can find the original post here.

Friday October 3, 2014

Madeira

Last night we broke down and finally used the engine on and off through the night to finally get ourselves some speed and pointing capabilities. And partially to dodge the line of tankers that wanted to come just a little to close to us. I had a moment where I was handing the reigns of my shift over to Matt where two tankers were headed right at us, one on each side, but a little too close for comfort. Calling one man on VHF and getting no answers the first few times until I repeated it a few more times with a very stern ‘Please respond’ at the end, I politely asked if he could miss hitting us by subtracting a few more degrees from his current course since I already had a tanker on one side of me and the wind on my nose in another. I barley got a response and wasn’t even sure he heard me until I saw the course on his AIS falling a few degrees. I may have thanked him for his help a little too hastily since that number began to rise again, but by that time it was Matt’s problem and I was on my way to my bunk. A little course alteration on Matt’s part and throwing our deck lights on to make sure this guy knew exactly where we were, and all was good and we were in the clear within ten minutes.

When I woke up this morning, our tenth day at sea, Matt told me there would be a slight change in plans. The wind had never shifted north enough for us to be able to make the easting we needed to get to Porto Santo. But..we could get ourselves on the west side of Maderia Grande, and once there we would be sheltered by the winds and could motor smoothly into the harbor of Funchal. Whatever. If it meant I could fall asleep at anchor that night, I was in. Setting us on a course that was just far enough off the wind that we might actually be able to get there, he let me know that we needed to maintain a speed of 5 knots to get there before nightfall. If we couldn’t do it under sail power alone, the engine needed to be on and running high. Turning off our diesel hog, I was able to get in one enjoyable hour of sailing before we kept dipping into the mid 4′s and a panic ran through me that this had the potential of leaving us at sea another night and I rushed to turn it back on.

As we rose and fell through the building swell that was coming from our back quarter, I read up on Madeira and Funchal through our Imray guide, having skipped it the first time around because I never expected it to be a stop. I found a few fun little facts about the town, a nice black and white photo depicting the harbor and the homes sitting on hillside behind it, and a little blurb that Maderia’s west side, of which we would be passing by in a few hours, contained sheer cliff drops into the water, supposedly the second largest in the world. It also appeared as if this island contained volcanic peaks that almost rivaled that back in Pico, and should also be visible from the water at distances of 30-50 miles. Riding every crest I’d stare out into the distance, waiting for something to come out of the shadows, but it wasn’t until we were less than 15 miles off on this hazy day that I was able to make out an outline through the brume.

Over the next few hours I watched it become larger and clearer. Finally it came into view and I stood in awe at the massiveness of it. I had not been expecting anything so colossal. For a few minutes as I stood on the cockpit seats with my head over the dodger and letting the strong breeze blow through my hair I had a pod of dolphins pass by, jumping through the considerable waves that followed behind me. They were gone almost as soon as they had come, but I had other more important things on my mind. Land. We were finally within site. We were going to make it there if it killed me.

And that my friends, is when you speak too soon. Although the swell was mostly behind us, by this point it had grown to the predicted 12 feet that our weather report (my dad) had forecast. Up until that point winds were in the mid 20′s and although it wasn’t a calm ride, it was mostly comfortable. Then we came across something I’ve had little to no experience with. Just as we were rounding the western part of the island and I assumed this solid block of land would begin blocking us from the gusts, we hit a wind zone. A little thing I had read up on a bit for in the Canaries, but didn’t know I would come across here. In these wind zones, the wind will funnel itself around a portion of land and increase itself anywhere from 10-20 knots, almost instantly. I had just found myself in one of these areas and now my 25 knot winds were holding in the upper 30′s and sometimes gusting into the mid 40′s. I kept thinking they would go down in just a few minutes and hesitated to wake Matt to help put a reef in the main, the only sail we were running with at the time.

Just as I was contemplating ‘Do I , or do I not?’, one of the large waves from behind us caught us at a strange angle and began rounding us into the wind. Sometimes this will happen by 10° or so and the autopilot will work to fix itself in a matter of seconds, but this was closer to a 90° change, and we showed no signs of turning back the correct direction. Lunging toward the autopilot I quickly threw it on standby and yanked the wheel hard to starboard, slowly putting us back on course, but not before the next wave started to come and tried it’s best to keep us pointed into the wind. As we reached the crest I finally got some semblance of steering back and set us once more to where we were supposed to be. My heart was pounding, but we seemed to be ok. For the moment.

Just as my pulse was returning to a normal rate, it happened again. Once more I flew to the rear of the cockpit as fast as humanly possible, but with my harness and tether on I was only able to go so far. Staring at the stern as my hand once more cranked the wheel to port, I was not able to fight the force that was rounding us up. For one whole set we sat almost at a standstill with our beam into the waves and I was sure the next one to come would be the one to roll us over. Fighting the panic in my chest I moved myself behind the wheel to the best of my ability with my harness still clasped into a pad-eye by the companionway, letting the tether rub across the top of the wheel as I put all of my strength into keeping it hard over. What felt like an eternity later, although I’m sure it was mere seconds, the bow started following my directions and we were out of harms way. This time it didn’t even take me two seconds to yell down to Matt who was still comfortably sleeping in his bunk, that he needed to get his ass up so we could put a reef in.

Changing our course to almost directly downwind so the waves would not keep catching us on our side, we reefed the main and things instantly felt 1,000 x better. And knowing that we were no longer knocking on death’s door (I know I’m being much more dramatic about this than it actually was), we could finally enjoy the views in front of us. The dramatic cliff drops were just as good as the guide said they would be, and the only thing we could do was stand there with our mouths open as we watched them go by.  From there on things just kept getting better.  Just as suddenly as we had entered the wind zone we were now out of it and in the lee of the island.  Winds became just a slight breeze on our cheeks as we could now feel the sun beat down on them as well.

Taking full advantage of the now gorgeous day, I put some music on to blast through the cockpit speakers and opened a beer while I continued to watch our views get better.  It was like the universe was watching out for me and saying ‘Sorry about that earlier snafu, let me make it up to you with some of the most spectacular views I have to offer you.’  And oh yes, they were.  As that weren’t enough, just a few miles further along the coast we were treated with a remarkable dolphin show.  These things were really trying to show off for us.  There wasn’t just your usual swimming next to the boat while sticking their head above the water every now and then to get a better look at us.  For literally hours we watched as groups of these magnificent creatures did jumps, twists, and tail stands.

Then just as the sun was beginning it’s descent and radiating perfect orange beams onto the cliffs in front of us, we neared the harbor of Funchal.  Calling in and getting in touch with the harbor master I found that just as our guide book promised, it was possible to anchor in this harbor.  Finally.  Not having dropped the hook since Bermuda I think all of us, the cat included, were looking forward to a little swinging room on the boat.  Entering the inner harbor and finding the catamarans the harbor master had mentioned to us as the best place for us to be, we dropped the anchor just as the sky was growing dark.

Letting out all the necessary chain in this fairly deep port, we glanced around and realized how close we were to not only the chartered dolphin watching catamarans next to us, but the large cement breaker behind us.  After 5 minutes of staring around we made the executive decision to get the anchor up and just go in the marina instead.  Calling the harbor master once more to let him know that instead of anchoring, we’d now be coming in, and where was the reception area and what side should we have our fenders on.  The only response I received was an infuriating “I’ll point you in the right direction when you get in here, but I can’t tell you what side you’ll be on, so just put fenders on both sides”.  Well, not only do we not have enough fenders to go all the way around our boat, but it was literally now getting black out, so how the hell are we going to follow your directions if I can’t even see you?

Arguing with the man on VHF for more information, which he wouldn’t give, then arguing with Matt about the lack of information, and arguing on the VHF once more, we just decided to throw two fenders on each side and get ourselves in with any last little bit of daylight we had left.  Once the anchor was weighed I quickly handed the wheel to Matt and ran up to the bow to watch for our harbor traffic controller.  Fortunately I did spot him just as we rounded the corner into the marina and he yelled out “Follow me!” as he hopped on a little bike and began to race it around the inner breakwater.  Matt was not a happy camper behind the wheel as I tried my best to shout not only directions back to him from the bow, but when to watch out for the mooring lines attached to the bows of all the boats docked here.

If we had to join the ranks of those before us in this marina that backed their boats into sample size spaces in the dark, I think we would have happily turned the boat around and heaved to a few miles off shore until the sun came up.  I think the harbor master realized this and took pity on us, guiding us to a large open space of dock where he instructed us to side tie.  The lines were still a mess since he ‘couldn’t tell us what side we’d be on’, and I did a slapdash job of getting them run through the chalks on our starboard side before handing them over.  Our landing into this spot was not very graceful.  Withing a few minutes though, we were securely tied up and the engine was off.  The longest (perceived) passages of our lives was officially over

cliffs of Madeira

cliffs of west Maderia

dolphins in front of Madeira

dolphin jumping at bow

cliffs of Madeira

Funchal, Madeira

M

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Throwback Thursday: Open Air Orchestra

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

The plans had been made to purchase Daze Off, and with a bit of time spent online with banks as well as dealing with the time difference between us, an electronic payment was sent and she was all ours.  With our new route mapped out, all we had to do was wait for the right weather window that would let us get to our next stop. Not very easy with a hurricane headed right in our direction!

As we waited for a safe window that would take us to our next destination, we tried to take in all the activities Ponta Delgada would let us. Lots of aimless wandering, and even an outdoor orchestra just steps away from the marina.

You can find the original post here.

Saturday September 20, 2014

Orchestra of Ponta Delgaga, Sao Miguel

I’m so happy that it’s finally settled that we have a next destination now. Instead of wondering if we’ll be heading to the Mediterranean or back to Florida, and otherwise stalled until we had that answer. At least now we can begin looking to move forward again, and that next forward is Porto Santo, Portugal. No, it’s not part of mainland Portugal, we’re not going to travel 800 nm just to have to immediately drop south. Porto Santo is part of the Madeira island group, approximately 560 nm SE of Sao Miguel. We think it will be a nice stop before getting to the Canaries, and I have it on good authority from my new online cruising friend, Kitiara, that there are some beautiful golden sand beaches there perfect for laying out after snorkeling through it’s clear Caribbean like waters. Something that we haven’t been able to do since Bermuda, and something that’s sorely been missing from our lives lately.

So there you have it, our next step after spending muuuch longer in the Azores that we ever originally anticipated. Ha, what was supposed to be a 7-10 day stay only in Horta has now turned into almost six weeks in only two spots. That kind of seems to be a trend for us this year. Get to one spot and stay put for weeks on end. It feels like the only real cruising we’ve done so far was our five weeks in the Bahamas. But the Canaries should hopefully give us a good chance to do some island hopping and get back into the cruising groove. We think there’s a window to get ourselves out of Ponta Delgada early next week, and hopefully from there it’s only 5-6 days to Porto Santo where we can spend about a week soaking up sun and sand before moving on again.

Tonight however, we took advantage of the fact that we’re still in a big city with a lot going on. While doing some of my daily wandering earlier I came across a sign in the main square that there would be the town’s local orchestra playing that evening at 10:00. That is still one thing I have yet to get used to in this European culture. Everything starting so late. If it were the US I doubt anything would start after 8:00, probably coming to it’s close around 10:00, but hey, I guess that’s how they do things over here. You won’t hear any kind of complaints from us, especially since we have no kind of schedule.

Somehow we found ourselves arriving a little bit late to this outdoor concert, after squeezing in one last McDonald’s meal we assume until the US, and then guzzling coffee back at the boat just to make sure we could stay awake past 10:30.  When we did get there everything was already in full swing.  Crowds filled all of the folding chairs in front of the stage and spilled out into both sides of the streets.  We weaved our way through people until we were adjacent to the stage to enjoy the show.  Aside from the orchestra playing their instruments there were also a few singers on stage.  One had a Portuguese accent and must have been a local, and the other was channeling Amy Winehouse in everything from wardrobe to vocals.

The songs we heard when first arriving were all covers of hit songs in English.  While sipping from our little single serve bottles of wine, we listened to songs from The Beatles , Bill Withers (Ain’t no Sunshine), and Aretha Franklin.  Both the vocals and the accompanying instruments were beautiful, and I kept cursing myself for not getting out for some of the weeks earlier concerts that were probably just as good.

Some of the best parts of coming out to see the orchestra play were watching the kids that were dragged, quite willingly it looked like, by their parents.  All over we could see little ones under the age of 10, dancing around, swaying to the music, and clapping along.  The best part was when this little girl of about three or four years spent a good portion of the concert seated on a red carpet right in front of the stage, rocking back and forth on her legs as she listened to the music and then clapping loudly and long with everyone else at the end of each song.  Even better though was when her mother called her back over to the side of the stage we were positioned on, and this practicing ballerina was dancing along with the music, obviously in some kind of dance course and practicing her moves.  Boy was she cute.  If she didn’t have a set of parents and grandparents watching over her, she might have found a new home on Serendipity.  (Kidding!  We’re not actually into kidnapping adorable children.)

Once the music turned from English to Portuguese we stayed for a few more songs before making our way to the food tents that were set up about a block away, no doubt part of the evening’s festivities.  Scooping up a few of deep fried donuts from one stand, we wandered to the back of the pack by a reflecting pool and listened to a few more songs before calling it a night and heading back to the ‘Dip.  I have to admit, I do not like the gray skies that we’ve been cloaked under here for the past few weeks, which really has me wanting to get a move on to somewhere warm and sunny, but it will be sad leaving this city behind.  There’s definitely never a shortage of activities and events going on.

Ponta Delgada Orchestra

outdoor orchestra

Ponta Delgada Orchestra, Azores

shadow puppets

Ponta Delgada orchestra

little girl watching orchestra

view of crowd at orchestra

statue in main square, Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel, Azores

 

 

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Throwback Thursday: Cave Dwellers

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

After we found out we had in fact just purchased a new boat in Florida that was now sitting around and waiting for us to come fix her up, we had to make plans to get back to the US.  Instead of trying to time a passage into Gibraltar now and into the Med, we had to set our sights on getting south to the Canary Islands where we’d make our jump back to the Caribbean.  Since that jump wouldn’t happen until November, it left us plenty of time to enjoy a few more Portuguese islands before getting on our way.

Having landed ourselves in what seemed to be the very bustling metropolis of Ponta Delgada, or at least it seemed after Horta, we spent a few days exploring on our own, and even had our first tastes of McDonald’s in three months.  A few days into our stay we ran into another American couple and soon made plans to do a little exploring of the island together.

You can find the original post here.

Wednesday September 10, 2014

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Once upon a time last summer I wrote an article for The Monkey’s Fist on Young Cruisers and how it seems to be that when a boat with crew members under the age of 40(ish) finds another boat with crew members of the same age, they’re drawn together like magnets, …. for the most part all relative newbies looking to share in new world experiences while knowing that most of our comrades are sitting behind a desk somewhere. Although it seems by the number of young cruiser blogs popping up out there that our numbers are growing, so watch out old timers, we’re taking back the seas!*

From what we’ve noticed so far in these two Atlantic Islands we’ve visited, there don’t seem to be many Americans crossing the pond in these parts, so when we see each other it seems to be an instant bond as well. “Wait a minute, you’re an American? I’m an American? What are the odds?!”. Kind of like how the French always stick together wherever they are in the world. (Side note, we love all the French boats we’ve come in contact with, they’ve been so incredibly nice and generous toward us) And so it came to be how we met our neighbors Barbara and Stuart of La Luna. Twice now the stars and stripes flapping from our stern has brought over others flying the same colors.

A few days ago we had a little knock on the hull and when we went to check out the source we found Barbara coming to introduce herself and let us know that the two of them were going out for a day of sightseeing around Ponta Delgada in the next day or two and would we like to join them? Normally our version of sightseeing in a town is wandering the streets until we get lost and then make our way back to the boat saying, “Ok, so that was the town”. So when Barbara mentioned actual activities such as a fort and local caves to be toured, we hopped back on the train of itineraries just like when we were traveling with Rode Trip and jumped at the chance for someone else to plan an activity where all we had to do was follow along. Meeting this morning in a cafe across the street from the marina, the four of us sipped on cafe con leche while looking over maps and planning out the day. There didn’t have to be much coaxing from us on what to do though, they asked if we were up for a few things and all we had to reply with was “Sure, lead the way!”.

The first spot we were led to was a military fort positioned on the water about a half mile from us on the marina. We spoke a little broken English to the officials at the office, handed over our 3€ apiece, and began wandering through the exhibits. They really were very interesting visually, but that’s about all I can tell you since every single plaque or information giving tidbit was in Portuguese. From the little bits of data we had been able to receive in our native tongue though, we knew that most of what we were staring at belonged to Portugal’s Colonial war with African colonies in the 1960′s although the era looked like it could have been out of the first World War. For the next hour we wandered from room to room, through tunnels and into rooms that Matt and I had to say to ourselves, ‘You know, we could turn this into a really cool home’, as we took in more visual tidbits of the Portuguese military back in the 60′s.

Plus, with someone else in the group besides just the two of us, it was a rare opportunity for the two of us to have our photo taken together. Something that happens only about twice a year. It’s an occasion that I cherish as the photographer stands behind the lens, getting about 15 shots while repeating, “Ok Matt, I’m going to need to you smile. No really, I mean it. Smile this time. Let me just…sigh…well, yeah, I think I got one that might work”. 9.10.14 (1)

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From there we roamed the streets of the city center before stumbling upon the local market. I guess it’s one of those things you need to be there early in the morning for the best pick of items, because as we strode in around one in the afternoon the place was a ghost town with only a few onions and tomatoes left to be pilfered. Since the two of us had just found the mega supermarket yesterday and fully stocked up like we hadn’t seen fresh produce in months there was no need to fill up baggies with anything here, but it might still be fun to come check it out some morning in full swing.

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The last item on our list for the day was to tour the local caves, but before we could do that we had to find them. I know Matt and I like to get lost for the fun of it while wandering around a city, but the four of us truly did get lost while trying to walk to these caves on the outskirts of town. After much searching for names of streets, asking directions, and pointing at maps, we finally found a sign on the side of the road that would lead us the right way.

Discovering the small building that sat upon the entrance, we paid our fee and watched the instructional video before descending the steps to the depths below. Donning really awesome hair nets and hard hats we were led into two different sections of the caves that ran below the city. Although these caves extend for miles all the way from the waters edge into the center of the island, the fact that they only sit between 10-30 feet under the surface of a budding town and expressways has meant many cave-ins and unsafe areas for tourists.

Taking in the views of the areas we were allowed to explore, we found these particular caves were formed when lava flowed down from the islands volcano, creating tubes underground where the outer area cooled and hardened as the hot lava ran through the center. What remained were two different types of lava, a certain kind of the top that I don’t remember the name of but left cool staglamite , and another kind on the floor called AhhAhh (sp), a Polynesian name that literally came from the sounds natives would make as they walked across it. Kind of like walking on hot coals.

Although the tour wasn’t incredibly long as there weren’t terribly many places we could walk through these caves, just a few hundred feet in each tunnel we were shown, it was still fun and completely different from the things we see when we normally visit a place. Thanks Barbra and Stuart for dragging us out of our own little cave to show us that nature has some of it’s own.

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*I mean this in a completely loving way

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